Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

Solanas’ A Journey to the Fumigated Towns offers an inside view on the ongoing pollution and growing extermination of Argentina’s population caused by the soya industry.

A Journey to the Fumigated Towns

(Viaje a Los Pueblo Fumigados)

Fernando E. Solanas

Cinesur

Argentina 2018, 96min

Solanas’ documentary, presented at the 2018 Berlinale, starts with images of an illegal deforestation in the province of Salta located in northern Argentina. As a native forest, this terrain is protected. But thousands of hectares of centenarian wood were felled in only a few weeks, mainly for soya bean cultivation.

Solanas structures his film in ten chapters, offering lucidity and rhythmic elegance. Using his own camera and a second camera filming his actions, meetings and dialogues, he creates a natural transparency, which hides nothing on the set.

Mass poisoning by fumigation

He jumps right into the centre of the catastrophe. Solanas meets the ingenious Wichí population, the original owners of the land, who now live behind fences. Others were forced to migrate and settle in nearby villages to avoid the bombardment of agrotoxins sprayed from airplanes. The main source of their food has been destroyed. Facing hunger and all kinds of illnesses caused by fumigation, they are condemned to disappear. Their children have never consulted a doctor or seen a teacher. Their survival – with no access to drinking water, shoes and other essential materials – is threatened. Their requests for help from the Argentinean government and the deed holders have remained unanswered.

Helplessness is also the overwhelming feeling shared by a school teacher, who breaks down in tears in front of Solanas’ camera. She had observed the periodical return of the fumigating airplanes, spraying their deathly cargo over the soya fields just beside the school area, sometimes right over it. In these villages surrounded by soya bean plantations, the entire population is affected by a growing number of respiratory and blood illnesses, including cancer. A significant change in neonatal pathology has been observed in the last 10 years, including terribly mutated miscarriages or deformed babies, which is intrinsically linked to the increasing application of agrotoxins, as paediatrician Dr Ávila Vázquez and his team have witnessed.

«Solanas structures his film in ten chapters, offering lucidity and rhythmic elegance.»

Argentina has lost its soul, remarked an eco-agriculture expert. Millions of hectares of soya production are occupying the most fertile lands. Its consequence is not only the destruction of the ecosystem and biodiversity, but also the depopulation of the territory. A shocking 200,000 agricultural plantations and 700,000 jobs, including those of indigenous farmers, disappeared in Argentina in the 1990s. Abandoned villages, schools and country houses mark the landscapes. No insects, fauna or butterflies, not even birds can survive here anymore. The beekeeping culture has been totally extinguished.

Big business

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